Federal health officials and medical experts are expected to recommend that most people in the U.S. who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations should get booster shots eight months after their second doses, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
The guidance, which would apply only to the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna regimens, could go into effect as early as mid-September, the sources said.
The recommendation is expected as the delta variant of the coronavirus surges across swaths of the U.S. and as federal health officials are considering whether elderly Americans should get booster shots this fall.
The Food and Drug Administration last week amended its emergency use authorizations for the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines Thursday to allow some people with compromised immune systems to get third doses. The change was specific to patients who have been unable to mount adequate immune responses against the virus, even after having been fully vaccinated.
Among the first to receive the third doses could be health care workers, nursing home residents and other older Americans, who were some of the first people to be vaccinated once the shots were authorized for emergency use in December.
Since then, more than 198 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 168 million having been fully vaccinated. Still, the country is experiencing a fourth surge of virus cases due to the more transmissible delta variant, which is spreading aggressively through unvaccinated communities and is responsible for an increasing number of so-called breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people.
Israel, which exclusively administered the Pfizer shot, has been offering coronavirus boosters to people older than 60 who were vaccinated more than five months ago to control its surge in cases from the delta variant.
For months, officials had said data still indicated that people remain highly protected from COVID-19, including the delta variant, after having received the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna regimen or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But U.S. health officials made it clear Sunday that they are preparing for the possibility that the time for boosters may come sooner than later.
The White House has said that even though the U.S. has begun sharing more than 110 million vaccine doses with the world, the country has enough domestic supply to deliver boosters to Americans should health officials recommend them.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has argued against booster plans, saying poor countries have administered just 1% of available doses while 10 countries have used 75% of supplies.
In an op-ed in Time last week, he advocated for a moratorium until the end of next month, allowing for the vaccination of at least 10% of the population of every country.